HILL: Amtrak’s got the disappearing railroad blues


Americans love the idea and nostalgia of trains. They just don’t ever buy a ticket and get on a train to go somewhere.

Singer-songwriters love the romance of riding the rails with hobos. Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans” is a paean to days gone by, which painted a poignant scene of an America left far behind. “Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail” sounds like a typical passenger load on many Amtrak routes today.

If rail travel was economically feasible in the 21st century, Elon Musk would have already taken over the rail system as a privately-owned business and run it with no federal subsidy, as he has done with SpaceX.

Even Elon Musk couldn’t make Amtrak work in America. Based solely on numbers and economics, it is time for America to close Amtrak down and put it out of business.

The problem is that Joe Biden and Democrats love the idea of mass transit so much they want to throw $100 billion more of your tax money at Amtrak despite its constant failures. They really and truly believe with all their heart and soul that by doing so, Americans will junk 100 million gas-guzzling cars and ride the rails with them in the name of combatting climate change.

Good luck with that.

Amtrak doesn’t keep statistics on who actually uses Amtrak, only aggregated totals such as passenger-miles and on-loadings and off-loadings. In a good year for Amtrak, it appears as if only 3% of America’s 331 million residents may ride a train.

Some people ride Amtrak one time a year — or ever. Maybe 12 million people ride Amtrak in a good year. Most of Amtrak’s ridership consists of businessmen and lawyers commuting multiple times per week from Washington to Philadelphia to New York to Boston in the Northeast Corridor.

That’s right. Massive annual subsidies of $2 billion goes to prop up Amtrak so wealthy businessmen and lawyers in Gucci loafers can avoid air traffic delays at Reagan and LaGuardia airports and get to and from major business centers cheaply. These are the same people progressives want to tax to death, by the way.

President Biden commuted every day from his home in Delaware to Washington where he served in the Senate for 36 years. He could have accounted for over 14,400 federally subsidized Amtrak trips all by himself during his Senate career.

No wonder he loves Amtrak so much. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to love it as well. Every one of his trips, as well as those of other Amtrak riders, is subsidized by the federal taxpayer up to $125 per round trip annually.

The amount of taxpayer subsidy flushed down the Amtrak drain since day one of operations in 1971 is mind-numbingly large. Amtrak has received an average of $2 billion annually for years to remain operational.

President Biden and his progressive friends really don’t understand who or what Americans are.  Americans are not Europeans who queue up for everything. Americans switch lanes all the time to find a faster way. Americans don’t want to wait in a dingy station waiting for a train that is two hours late which will take 25 hours to get to Chicago. Americans want to fly from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago non-stop in 75 minutes.

Amtrak exposes the misguided emotional thinking that goes on in the minds of big government advocates. Progressive idealists assume without any evidence that “everyone they know” will ditch their Ford F-150 to hop aboard the Amtrak Green Express in order to save the planet.

I know one liberal who is so concerned about global warming that he rides a bus from Chapel Hill to work in Raleigh and back every day.

He is the only person I know who does that. I respect him for it. But there are not enough like him to justify spending what Biden and the Progressives want to spend on Amtrak.

Americans are Americans whether they are liberal or conservative. They want their freedom first. Everything else comes second, including being told what to do by bureaucrats in Washington.

If the Progressives running the Biden administration want to build a cross-country high-speed monorail system that elevates over cities, travels 1000 mph and delivers freight at several points along the way, then we might have a conversation. Anything that cuts the cost of freight by 90%, like the Erie Canal did in the early 19th century, is worth discussing.

Amtrak is not worth fixing. Amtrak has had the disappearing railroad blues for decades. Let it go.